Anniversary a Hopeful Sign for Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered an undiagnosed concussion after a crash in a tire test at Kansas Speedway on Aug. 29, 2012, starting a series of events that forced him to miss two Chase races. (Photo: Getty Images)

The day passed without fanfare or much thought. Thursday was like any other day for many, the only difference was the calendar read Aug. 29 instead of another number.

Even the man whose life was impacted a year ago that day paid little attention to the anniversary but understands the significance.

Thursday marked one year since Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crash during a tire test at Kansas Speedway, starting a chain of events that caused him to miss two races. He suffered an undiagnosed concussion at Kansas and a concussion about five weeks later in a last-lap crash at Talladega Superspeedway. Those incidents caused him to miss Chase races.

“The further that you can put that injury behind you the better,’’ Earnhardt said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “It’s a good thing to be healthy and to able to get further and further away from that injury, to be able to feel like you’ve got it behind you and you can move on with your life because that can certainly take control of you when you’re going through that process.

“You can’t fix it. You just have to wait on it and it’s so frustrating for it to heal on itself. I’m glad to be past all that. I hope I don’t have to worry about that ever again. I never felt that vulnerable before. Normally you break an arm or a leg or something, it’s a pretty serious injury, but it’s something that you can expect to heal. A head injury you just don’t never know what is going to be permanent and what is not.’’

With the past behind, Earnhardt is focused to making the Chase. He enters the weekend seventh in the standings, 33 points ahead of 11th. He’ll clinch a Chase spot if he leaves Atlanta with a 49-point lead on 11th place.

“I don’t want to lose any spots,’’ he said. “I don’t want to fall to eighth. I don’t want to fall to ninth. I don’t want to be 10th. I want to be seventh or better. We don’t want to go into the Chase sputtering and just making it by the skin of our teeth.’’

He admits to feeling better about his Chase chances than he did a week ago at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I was real nervous going into Bristol,’’ he said. “A bullring like that with only 20 points on 11th was a bit difficult on our nerves. “We really didn’t get to race as aggressive as we’d like to, but we still had a good night, had a good car and drove a smart race.’’

He said he’s confident about the next two races even with a new tire this weekend that some drivers are suggesting could impact the sport. Goodyear’s new right-side tire is a combination of its Michigan and Atlanta tires and is designed handle the high speeds, heat and wear at Atlanta and provide additional grip.

“I hope it’s a good tire,’’ Earnhardt said after earning the eighth starting spot for Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500. “I want good things for Goodyear. I don’t really know enough about the tire yet to have an opinion on it, but so far, I couldn’t tell if was much done to it. It’s an attempt to learn something that could maybe go to other racetracks.’’ 

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